Skip to main content

"Through Eden"

This post is by Bram Wayman SY '09, the winner of the 2008 Fenno Heath Award for the composition of a new Yale song. His piece, "Through Eden," was premiered this past Friday at the Yale/Princeton Glee Club Concert.

Composing, rehearsing, and performing "Through Eden" has been a fulfilling musical experience for me. I'm often happiest when the music I'm writing is rooted in something personally compelling, and "Through Eden" is no exception. The text I used, an excerpt from the traditional Commencement speech by Dean (now Provost) Salovey, has always struck me, especially at last year's Commencement, when I knew I would be next. The feeling I got from that text was the sense of incredulous wonder that I figure I'll feel when I take my last look at Yale, and the rush of empowerment from knowing I'm a part of it all.

This overwhelming sentiment was a far cry from the nuts and bolts of the composition itself, which I wanted to structure around two things: the flow of the text and the general building of intensity from beginning to end. The text was a challenge. It's a long passage, and it's all complex prose, so it needed to be set to a few consistent motives to keep the music concise. The first cornerstone of "Through Eden," then, was those intervallic and rhythmic motives that reoccur throughout entire piece and bind its sections together. They came from speaking the text over and over, working out the melodic contours of inflection and then assigning them to pitches.

Once I knew the structure of the piece from these recurring threads, it was easy to create the overall build from beginning to end by way of a harmonic and textural journey. The first section presents the polyphonic nature of the piece without too much harmonic adventuring. The second section, set off by an unrelated key area and a much more homophonic texture, gave me somewhere to come back from for the third section, where the original polyphony and key return, but soon multiply into a dense cascade of lines and shifting tonal areas. That makes the strong ending feel all the more cathartic.

One of the tenets I hold to when composing is that music should be enjoyable from the performer's point of view. This never means it has to be conservative, but rather that it has to be something the performer can engage in. Being a singer, I was able to write passages (in all four parts -- I hope!) that get singers fired up. When people want to perform your music, usually the challenges presented by it are surmountable, and I think that's part of why we've been able to learn "Through Eden" so well in such a short period of time.

Thank you all for all the amazing feedback you've given me on this piece (gold star to John Good, who told me he thinks I "dumped a bucket of accidentals on the score"), and for your hard work and dedication! I can't wait to hear how "Through Eden" grows in the months ahead.

Popular posts from this blog

"Yale found its Glee 150 years ago," New Haven Register

An article from Donna Doherty in today's New Haven Register. All photos Arnold Gold/New Haven Register... and a video in the original article here.


NEW HAVEN — It has sung all over the world, survived wars and co-education. Its alums include legendary songwriter Cole Porter, former senators Prescott Bush and James Symington, and peace activist Rev. William Sloane Coffin, so reaching 150 years old seemed cause for celebration.



The Yale Glee Club, the oldest musical organization on campus, has big plans for that occasion, ones which embrace the community and continue through May, including two specially commissioned works, each composer and writer, unbeknownst to the other, choosing to honor the city of New Haven.



“City Song,” by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer and former Yale Glee-er Lew Spratlan and renowned Yale poet Elizabeth Alexander, will have its world premiere at a gala free concert at 5 p.m. Saturday at Woolsey Hall, featuring current Glee Club members and five decades of…

Ten Songs of Yale you didn't know about

Bram Wayman '09 delves into the depths of songbooks past. The views shared here in no way represent the official opinion of the YGC Blog nor the YGC... & c. & c. & c.*

Though clear favorites stand the test of time, and the old song books of Yale are full of the high stupidity of yesteryear, a few gems that aren't often — if ever — sung today stand out for me. Some of these songs are beautiful, some hilarious, and some downright offensive, but they all deserve a second look, and I'm not convinced all of them should have fallen out of use. I'm no expert on the history of Yale songs, and have only picked from a few books, but here are ten songs of Yale that still bring a smile to my face.

1. "Old Tom Wilson." TTBB. One of Barty's cleverest arrangements, this piece is a song from the Appalachian mountains of Kentucky. It features vocal banjos, vocal beer-chugging that gets longer each time the jug goes around, lyrics such as "Big fat gals…

Dead Week Shenanigans

Just in case you were wondering what Glee Club members do during dead week, here is just a glimpse of the festivities! This occurred during a lovely spring afternoon after a bit too much happy frappuccino hour at Starbucks.

Tour Memories from our 154th Season

This past spring, the 154th Yale Glee Club spent a whirlwind ten days in Spain, bringing concert masterpieces and Yale favorites to audiences across the Iberian Peninsula. Glee Clubbers were able to take a five-hour head-start on Spring Recess as we boarded the buses to head for JFK International Airport and our first stop, Barcelona! With only a few mishaps along the way, we finished our day of travel with Flamenco and tapas at our welcome dinner. The spectacle was mesmerizing, and jaws dropped as proud women and swashbuckling men performed the traditional Andalusian dance, which to my untrained eye looked a lot like a Spanish version of tap dancing with extra flare. Following a visit to the Salvador Dali Museum in Figueres, we joined the Cor Jove Amics de Granollers, a local choir of college-age students, at the church in Castello d’Empuries. As we would learn throughout the trip, nearly every small town in Spain has a magnificent, medieval church, and Castello d’Empuries was no dif…